Targeted training developed for dealer sales counter personnel is a success.
Continental Tire North America, Inc. (CTNA), headquartered in Charlotte, NC, is the second largest tire manufacturer in Europe and ranks fourth worldwide. CTNA does not sell directly to consumers but distributes through a reseller network that includes mass retail chains such as Sears and Wal-Mart, distributors, and retail locations. Because it relies heavily on the selling ability of sales counter personnel to promote its main brands—Continental and General Tire—its biggest challenge was to gain their share of mind using e-Learning.
NEEDING A DYNAMIC MODEL
Until late 2005, Continental Tire used a CD-based learning program to deliver product updates and training. But as the product line evolved, it was impossible to update existing training, requiring new learning materials being produced and shipped. The instructional CDs were often long and lacked interactivity.
“We needed to make training as interactive as possible for our dealers. e-Learning is not unique in this industry, so ours had to provide a memorable and worthwhile experience to differentiate CTNA from other tire manufacturers,” said Nakia Medlin, product training analyst with CTNA. “Our dealers know a lot about tires, so the priority was to increase sales by giving them training that was current on a product level and also provide selling-scenario examples based on a potential customer’s needs and preferences.”
CTNA chose a Web strategy. This provided their own sales staff with resources to conduct one-on-one training sessions with dealers. The company realized that the approval and recommendation of sales-counter personnel at the dealerships played a significant role in the purchasing decisions of customers. Supporting their target audience was not easy, and their training methods failed to address changing needs. Dealers completing training CDs had to take an exam and return it to CTNA for certification. This process did not provide the flexibility and reporting capabilities it needed.
With business objectives clearly defined, CTNA enlisted the aid of Element K’s content development services, which offered three kinds of development options: KnowledgeHub Authoring Tool, a Web-based course; Content Customization, in which business-specific examples, terminology, and branding elements are incorporated into existing content; and Custom Content Development, in which proprietary courses are created. CTNA chose to design and develop two new custom courses as a pilot.
The e-Learning needed to be engaging, trackable and developed within a month. The switch to a new partner under such a tight timeline required significant ramp up.
CTNA had already launched a successful marketing materials site used to circulate existing CD-based training. With 75 percent of its channel internet-ready, CTNA was encouraged by the possibility of providing trackable, evergreen training through a training portal. Element K transformed the existing CD into a branded LMS solution called E-Zone, which features nine custom-developed courses with reference materials designed to accompany each course. E-Zone also provides a straightforward online assessment tracking component to help facilitate certification and alleviate the need to mail exams. CTNA was careful to make training available even to those without Web access. Element K also created a CD version in addition to tri-fold K-cards for salespeople to use as a reference. Updated versions were available for download.
Because CTNA offers training through field sales representatives in addition to distributor-focused e-Learning, it wanted to offer an easy way for reps to create custom training on demand. Hosting a multitude of content types on their KnowledgeHub learning platform, Element K delivered stand-alone PowerPoint templates to give reps the ability to download images, training video, marketing collateral, and other materials to author custom presentations.
The availability of updated and customizable training tools via E-Zone has enabled CTNA representatives to tailor a unique training message for each distributor. Field sales people can now more accurately address the needs of their dealers by altering the complexity of training and scope of products covered.
“Our sales team can now leverage personalized offers on the fly that have an immediate impact on counter sales people” said Medlin.
Administratively, CTNA’s new and evolving learning program required more effort than their small training administration staff could sustain. They turned to the managed services offered by their training partner to provide deployment and post-launch support. Element K trained CTNA’s administrators and was instrumental in shaping learner development paths, managing users, running reports, generating marketing materials, and providing technical support.
Dealerships taking the training have already demonstrated an encouraging reaction, accessing CTNA’s e-Learning even though the tire manufacturer has not yet launched phase II of its program, which includes learner incentives. In this next phase, CTNA plans to further leverage Element K managed learning services, combining E-zone with a sales incentive program directed at the same audience as the training site. Utilizing Element K’s versatile tracking and reporting options, CTNA will begin to offer increased incentives if a counter sales rep has taken and passed a training course.